Email inbox from Shutterstock
Filed under: Intranets
By some reports, ‘most’ intranet teams have more than a dozen members, but this is not our experience. Instead, we see many intranet teams of one, or at best, two or three. Managing an intranet can even be just part-time job, alongside primary responsibilities as an internal communications manager, or an IT manager.
This can make running an intranet a daunting, and sometimes overwhelming responsibility. It’s also easy to feel like you are running on a treadmill, working hard merely to stay in the one spot.
In our work, our task is to help intranet teams succeed. Based on a decade of hands-on engagement with teams, we suggest five practical approaches that can be taken to manage your workload.
- Create a pipeline for requests
- Make your work visible
- Have a plan
- Allocate your time carefully
- Grow the team’s reputation
Let’s explore each of these.
1. Create a pipeline for requests
It’s no coincidence that almost all IT helpdesks have some form of system that staff are required to use when lodging a job or raising an issue. Intranet teams should take their lead from this, establishing similar approaches for the endless stream of intranet requests and updates.
There are many benefits from establishing some form of pipeline for requests. The pipeline process:
- provides a consistent mechanism for people to lodge requests
- enables the team more effectively manage incoming work
- allows tasks to be easily allocated to team members
- enables work to be tracked through to completion
- allows the team to better manage their internal activities
The smaller the team, the more important it is to track incoming work. Even with a ‘team’ of one, it’s vital to have a managed to-do list of intranet activities.
There are a myriad of helpdesk and issue tracking systems, from Jira and Zoho, to Dynamics and Bugzilla. It’s also possible to quickly create a simple form-based solution, in a SharePoint team site, using the capabilities of the intranet platform, or even with an Excel spreadsheet. Also have a chat with the IT team, and see if you can use their system!
Use a helpdesk or issue tracking system to manage the pipeline of #intranet tasks
2. Make your work visible
It’s a widely believed myth that intranet teams are sitting idle, eagerly waiting for each urgent request to create a new section, or demand to add a link to the homepage.
In part, this myth continues because the work of the team is invisible to the rest of the organisation. Many changes are made ‘under the hood’ of the intranet, improving key aspects of how the site works, or further supporting the publishing process.
Once a pipeline is in place (see item #1), it becomes possible to make the team’s work much more visible.
There are many practical approaches, including:
- track the number of ‘open’ tasks at any given point (“There will be a small delay in getting the button created, as we have five critical issues that we’re dealing with this week”)
- manage the pipeline in a transparent way (“In June we have allocated time to four major tasks for HR and Finance, so we can swap out one of them, or schedule you in for July”)
- report monthly to the steering group (“This month we closed 82 tasks, of which 15 were major changes, and 5 were critical issues”)
- report yearly (“This year we completed 879 intranet activities, a 15% increase on the year before”)
All of this helps the wider organisation (and the team’s direct management) to understand that the team is heavily in demand. This is also the first step to explicitly prioritising activities according to business importance, and forms a foundation for requests for further staff.
Make #intranet work visible, to bust the myth that you’re waiting idly for the next job
3. Have a plan
It’s easy for teams to get stuck in an endless cycle of ‘business as usual’, dealing with day-to-day requests and changes. By the end of the year, the team has found little opportunity to improve site, and no time to deliver items on the team’s own to-do list.
Worse yet, with a small intranet team, the intranet may be sliding backwards into disrepair, instead of moving forward to the digital workplace.
The answer is to have a plan. This allows the team to purposefully (and proactively) tackle tasks throughout the year, alongside business-as-usual requests.
The plan can be as simple as table on a single page, divided up into months, containing a handful of bullet points:
Alternatively, planning can be as robust as using the 6×2 methodology to carefully choose the activities for each six-month period. (The start of the year can be a great time to do some planning.)
However you approach it, having even a simple plan immediately changes the conversation with managers and stakeholders. Now it becomes a negotiation about when tasks will be done, and what items will therefore need to be moved. Senior stakeholders can still ‘trump’ these discussions, but having a plan puts teams in a stronger position to manage their workload.
An #intranet plan can be as simple as bullet points on a single sheet of paper
4. Allocate your time carefully
The smaller the team, the more important it becomes to rigorously manage tasks and time. While large teams can afford to tackle many different activities at once, smaller teams always risk being overwhelmed, particularly by activities that are ‘urgent but not important’.
In How intranet teams should spend their time, we suggested teams should allocate their time as follows:
- 30% effort for day-to-day maintenance
- 40% effort for projects and new initiatives
- 30% effort managing relationships with staff and stakeholders
Of this allocation, the 40% for new projects and improvements can seem the most unrealistic. We have seen teams use many practical and pragmatic approaches, including:
- allocating time each week for intranet improvements (eg blocking out every Wednesday afternoon in Outlook)
- making the most of quiet times (eg scheduling team time after New Year, to get a good start to the year)
- deliberately delaying unimportant work to make time (eg does the content audit really need to be done every six months?)
- simplifying and streamlining routine tasks (eg removing workflow rules from less-important sections of the site, reducing the level of detail in regular usage reporting to management)
Make sure ‘urgent but not important’ tasks don’t overwhelm actually improving the #intranet
5. Grow the team’s reputation
While teams can undoubtedly improve their own practices, there are still only so many hours in a working week. If intranets are to reach their full potential, we will need intranet teams that are bigger than half, one or two team members.
This will only happen if teams enhance their reputation and political capital within organisations. (Senior management aren’t just going to ‘get it’ one day, and double the size of the intranet team.)
This is not as hard as it sounds:
- start by promoting intranet successes
- set ambitions higher than just reducing intranet frustration
- be brave and gain intranet stardom
The aim is to create an upwards spiral, where successes build reputation, which increases resources, thereby allowing the team to deliver more.
The size of the #intranet team will only grow when you’re seen as superstars
Case study: taking an agile approach at Richemont
Headquartered in Geneva, Richemont is a global luxury brand house, with particular strengths in jewellery, luxury watches and premium accessories. The Group encompasses some of the most prestigious names in the luxury industry including Cartier, Vacheron Constantin, Jaeger-LeCoultre, IWC Schaffhausen, Panerai and Montblanc.
Led by the Digital Services team, Richemont launched a new global intranet (Step Two played a mentoring role throughout this project). This was just the beginning of the journey, however, with much more yet to be delivered.
Neil Morgan, the Digital Workplace Team Lead at Richemont, describes how they take an agile approach to managing their workload.
What sort of activities do you have planned?
Neil Morgan: We plan all related activities that have a link to the digital workplace template and could potentially have an impact on our projects. This means we have activities where we can completely control 100% of the development required, but also several projects where we rely on other teams to provide us with a first solution, that we can then integrate into the platform. This ranges from improvements to the UI to improving the quality of the data coming from our corporate systems.
How do you manage the improvement process?
We (the Digital Services PM team) meet on a weekly basis with our lead editors from each Maison (major brand) to identify any new needs or improvements. These are then added to our development backlog, which I review at least 2-3 times per week to manage the workload for the developers. The developments are then assigned to a specific development sprint that can last between 4 and 6 weeks. We meet with our developers once per month to prioritise the developments for each sprint before they begin any development.
And you’re following an agile development methodology?
Yes, the agile approach is good for us – when you are managing a template for so many different stakeholders, it’s important to be able to be responsive to their needs. It also allows us to plan several sprints ahead, so we can begin to develop a more accurate roadmap for communicating to our stakeholders. For long-term integration planning, this methodology can allow you to set up a quick proof of concept (POC) to test an idea, before committing to further development.
Any tips for other teams, on handling ongoing intranet improvements?
Planning time for testing is very important and is sometimes overlooked. Do not rely on the developers or your internal team to do all the testing. Today there are many companies specialising in running tests on web developments, use them. Also take time for usability testing, we’re still trying to figure out the best fit for this during the sprints, but it’s a point not to forget as you continue to ‘improve’ things on your Intranet.